Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Ah, gender stereotypes. We know women are told to be both "feminine" and "masculine" in order to succeed — depending on the situation. And, past research has suggested that, (stereo)typically, men prefer competition, while women are naturally more cooperative. But, new research proves yet again that we should move past all these gendered traits, because (shocker) women also enjoy competition.
In the study, published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers performed two experiments to see how men and women would react to playing video games in either a cooperative or competitive way — both in the lab and at home. For the first experiment, 48 participants (only 18 females, unfortunately) played the classic Bomberman game together, either on teams or against each other. (Team/individual assignments were made randomly).
The researchers took physiological data measuring the participants' facial movements, heart rate, and skin conductance while they played. Afterwards, players were given a survey asking about their emotional responses to the game as a team effort vs. as an individual competition. The study's second experiment replicated the procedure of the first, but with 82 participants in same-gender pairings, and a different game: Hedgewars.
Results showed that, for the first experiment, men exhibited more positive emotions (measured by the questionnaire and the physiological markers) during competitive play. Women, on the other hand, enjoyed both competitive and cooperative playing styles. And, the results for the self-reported questionnaire in the second experiment showed that both men and women actually preferred the cooperative version of the game.
These new results add to a growing amount of data that suggests a more nuanced reality than previous research on gender and competition has shown. And, maybe competition and cooperation aren't that different, after all. Perhaps the most motivating aspect is simply working with another person — whether or not you're on the same team.